…. but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head…”
― Primo Levi
These words have been echoing in my head recently, it is strange, the way my brain works. At any given moment I have a song, beat, mantra, statement, bouncing around my head as I think. Recently it is this quote, specifically….”to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions…”
I guess a lot of it has to do with my year on a paleo diet, and the recent uptake in running. But I have been thinking incessantly about my ancient, primal, instinct. That voice that seems to resonate up the canyon walls of the folds of my brain. Starting as a whisper somewhere deep, somewhere I cannot find, but by the time it has echoed off so many neurons it becomes a deafening shout.
As I was doing a speed workout today, FYI 2 miles in 19 minutes, not bad for a 210 pound, stocky man, I couldn’t quiet the words “…in the most ancient of human conditions..”. In fact it was on repeat, in rhythm to my heavy breathing, and pounding heart, it kept resonating, and I tried to follow the thought to its headwater, to the source where it first bubbles out of the neural synapses.
As the phrase was echoing around my head like sound off a cave wall I looked down and my foot stepped onto some crudely spray painted words on the street “MA + PS 4 ever”, and it clicked. Maybe I was hypoxic from pushing my body harder than I have in two years, but the echoing of the phrase stopped and I began swimming up the river of primal thought toward the headwater.
I began to think that I should have a “tag” or a symbol to spray pain around cities, an outline of hand with the world “PaleoRomano”, like the old cave paintings…..
I thought how it would be so cool to be able to have people look at this and know PaleoRomano was there, marks all over the country, recognizable that this person, PaleoRomano, was there.
Then I began to wonder why that made me happy. I swim harder against the current, desperately trying to find the source.
I think how the most ancient of humans would paint and leave their marks on cave walls, telling pictorial stories of the hunt, an instinct so deep it is as old as humans themselves.
I pushed my body harder, the sound of my heart thumping, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth, move your arms like pistons and keep all movements to a minimum and in unison…..
I looked at my pace, I had a half mile to go and if I didn’t drop below a nine minute pace I would not break 20 minutes for 2 miles, so dug deep and turned it up to an 8:30 pace. Breathing harder, “….most ancient of human conditions….”
In through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth…
No more thinking about cave paintings, and walls, right now it was about one thing, beating that goal.
Quarter mile to go, need to speed up my pace, I felt a cramp, naseau, but I pushed, something was driving me, something was pushing me, “….in the most ancient of human conditions…”
I looked at my watch 1.98 miles, 1.99 miles, 2.00 miles, 19:01 minutes. I felt a rush of dopamine and endorphins and began a cool down walk. I reached for my pocket to make a post on Twitter and my Facebook Wall but realized I didn’t have a phone.
“….most ancient of human conditions…”
Then it hit me. This doesn’t have to mean a place, but it can be a state of mind. Look what the first thing I wanted to do was…..”post on Twitter and my Facebook Wall“.
Then my brain stopped. I had realized no matter how hard we try we will never escape that ancient need to leave our mark, to tell others what we have done, whether a pictorial story of an amazing hunt, the breaking of a personal running goal, or the announcing of a newborn child. We have traded a stone wall for a digital wall.